Travel in to the centre of the capital at the wrong time of day and you could find yourself liable for the costly central London congestion charge. The full cost of this charge currently stands at £11.50 and is payable for entering the congestion charge zone between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m on Mondays to Fridays. Make several journeys in to the heart of the capital within a week and these charges can soon add up to a significant sum. With a little forward planning and knowledge however it is possible to avoid a charge altogether and to drive right in to the heart of London for nothing at all.
The congestion charge is not payable on any weekday after 6 p.m. and then until 7 a.m. the following morning. In addition to this, the congestion charge does not operate at all at any time during weekends. Bank holidays are also completely congestion charge free days. If you are unsure as to what and when these holidays are then a full list of them for both the current and following years is provided by the UK government at the following address:
In addition to bank holidays being exempt, the entire time period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day inclusive is congestion charge free regardless of any of these days being public holidays or not.
The type of vehicle you enter the congestion charge zone in is also important in determining whether a charge is payable. If you are a user of a two wheeled motorbike or moped then you are are exempt from paying the charge at any time as are vehicles that are used by disabled drivers and which are exempt from road vehicle tax and have a disabled taxation class. Bicycles are also exempt from charges at all times.
If you do have to travel in to the Congestion Charge area during when a payment is due it is possible to do so at a cheaper price if the charge is paid in advance. This may be done by registering for Transport for London’s Auto Pay scheme which can be done at:
The scheme offers the driver a £1 reduction in price on each trip they make in to the congestion charge zone. Once registered for Auto Pay, payments are made automatically and monthly in arrears, either by card payment or by direct debit from your bank account. You can also pay through the Congestion Charge phone number at any time. Please note however that registering for the Auto Pay system requires the payment of an initial £10 administration charge which is added to the users first monthly bill. As a result the Auto Pay scheme option would only pay for itself if you planned to travel in to central London more than ten times in total and is therefore of no use to the casual or one-off visitor to London.
Please be aware if you decide to sign up for paying the charge in this way or decide to make a one-off payment online for a charge that there are a number of bogus websites in existence luring unsuspecting drivers in to overpayment of the charge or, worse still, the complete loss of their money whilst still being liable to Transport for London for the full amount of the charge. To protect yourself against these scams and excess charges please be sure only to pay for charges or to set up the Auto Pay facility via the official Transport for London congestion charge site. This can be found at:
Also be aware that there is no actual opportunity to pay the charge when you are driving in to London. If your are not registered for the Auto Pay scheme previously mentioned then it is your responsibility to pay for the charge within the deadlines specified by Transport for London. Payments can be made in advance, on the day of actual travel, both before and after your journey, and up to midnight on the day after travel. Please note that if you take the option to pay on the day after your journey then a higher rate congestion charge of £14 is payable.
If a full payment for any incurred congestion charge is not received by Transport for London within 24 hours of your vehicle being recorded as entering the congestion charge zone, then a number of penalties become applicable. These range from anything between £65 and £195 depending on how quickly or slowly the outstanding amount is settled and this is clearly something best avoided.
Payments for charges and penalties can be made both online and by telephone with full contact details provided at:
If you are unsure as to where exactly in London the charge is payable then a useful, interactive map is provided by Transport for London at:
The same page also offers a postcode search facility. Simply enter the postcode of your final destination and the tool will then tell you if it lies within the charging zone or not.
If you have any further questions or issues regarding the central London congestion charge that have not been answered here, then there are a number of ways to contact Transport for London for further information from both within and outside of the United Kingdom. A full list and further details of these options is provided at: